Email Must Build Engagement Into Customer Messages

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. – Email marketers suggested Friday that consistency of messages is critical to building engagement in multiple fashions.

“You’re a brand first and a channel second,” said Responsys Director of Creative Services Wacarra Yeomans. “So, whatever experience (customers) have on your Web (destinations), they expect to have that in your email. If they have that experience in your store, you want to bring that into your email too, and that becomes a huge place that I think we need to think about.”

Yeomans spoke on a panel at the MediaPost Email Insider Summit. Fellow panelist Roger Foisy, a senior manager in email marketing at Carnival Cruise Lines, offered similar thoughts.

“If you open a (direct mail) piece or an email piece or go to a landing page and it looks very different from your experience onboard (a cruise), that’s not a great thing,” he said, “because when people come back from their trips, they’re super-excited -- they’re ecstatic about the great time they had. They’re all over Facebook about it, so that’s what we try to tie back to all the time is making sure that that brand voice is there.”

At The Clymb, Craig Schinn, a senior director in online marketing, said the company experimented recently with an email effort that had it a “little bit off-brand for us.” The outdoor gear retailer ran a sale of “zombie survival gear,” which generated above-normal open rates, but also a significant number of deletes and unsubscribes.

“There was a consequence from stepping outside (of) what our content strategy and corporate mission are,” he said.

In another arena, Yeomans suggested an editorial calendar is hardly a content strategy, and a focus on personalization and other tactics are far more effective.

“I do think that planning your content is an important step in your marketing program,” she said, “but it doesn’t actually solve the problem of how are you communicating to your customer and how are you talking to your segments in a way that let’s them understand that you know who they are as an individual. And that requires a totally different method and process and the editorial calendar should be the manifestation of your content strategy.”

What works best with subject lines is always a hot topic among email marketers.

"This is probably not a big surprise, but the word 'free'," said Ilana Rabinowitz, who handles marketing at Lion Brand Yarns. She added that a message about time sensitivity (“three days left or some kind of time crunch”) with a sale or offer also generates responses.

In the travel business, Foisy said questions can move the needle. One of the more successful subject lines employed was simply “Where to next? …”

Yeomans said one client has had success in “tying their subject lines to their organic search terms.” Makes sense. Search terms offer some insight into peoples’ associations with a brand.

“That can help you start to think about (customer) mentality, and what they’re thinking about when they look in the in-box and are trying to decide whether or not to open,” she said.

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